By Michael Lanza
Hiking toward a mountain pass named Furcela dia Roa, on the first day of my family’s weeklong, hut-to-hut trek on the Alta Via 2 in northern Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, we stopped in an open meadow of grass and wildflowers overlooking a deep, verdant valley in Puez-Odle Natural Park. Across the valley loomed a wall of cliffs topped by jagged spires, like a castle a thousand feet tall. I looked at our map and back up at the stone wall before us, puzzled. After a moment, I realized: We have to get over that wall.
Scanning the vertiginous earth before us, I eventually picked out the trail snaking across the head of the valley and making dozens of switchbacks up a finger of scree, talus, and snow leading to the lowest notch in that wall: the Furcela dia Roa, the pass we had to cross.
Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.
A family trekking the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.
” data-image-caption=”My family trekking to Furcela dia Roa on the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?fit=300%2C199&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?fit=900%2C598&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”598″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=900%2C598&ssl=1″ alt=”A family trekking the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.” class=”wp-image-26784″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=1024%2C680&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=300%2C199&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=768%2C510&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=1080%2C717&ssl=1 1080w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=200%2C133&ssl=1 200w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=670%2C445&ssl=1 670w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />My family trekking to Furcela dia Roa on the Alta Via 2 in Parco
Did you miss our previous article…
Red Sprites are Best Seen from Space
Planet Earth is full of some truly awe-inspiring spectacles, but few are as intriguing as a sprite, which are officially known as a Transient Luminous Event (TLE) and consist of large-scale electric discharges that shoot upwards while occurring above the cloud tops in the Earth’s mesosphere at approximate altitudes of 50-90 km (31-56 mi). In October 2023, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, Dr. Andreas Mogensen, who is currently onboard the International Space Station (ISS) as Commander of the Expedition 70 mission, took an incredible image of a red sprite with the Davis camera as part of the Thor-Davis experiment and his Huginn mission.
Sprites have been observed from the ground and aircraft. However, the preferred observation method is from outer space due to the sprites occurring above the cloud tops and the low altitude of the ISS offering pristine views of these unique lightning features. While they are observed above cloud tops, they are hypothesized to originate from normal lightning near the Earth’s surface and act as a “balancing mechanism” used by the Earth’s atmosphere to distribute vertical electrical charges.
Since red sprites are essentially lightning strikes and visible for only a fraction of a second, specialized event-based cameras such as the Davis camera are required to precisely capture them. The Davis camera contrasts with a normal camera in that it does not take direct photographs, but instead creates images by sensing light and contract variances. Through this, the Davis camera capabilities are analogous to a normal camera taking 100,000 images per second.
Images of a red sprite taken by the Davis camera from the International Space Station in October 2023 by Expedition 70 Commander, Dr. Andreas Mogensen. (Credit: ESA/DTU/ A. Mogensen)
“These images taken by Andreas are fantastic,” said Dr. Olivier Chanrion, who is a senior researcher at Danish Technical University (DTU) Space and lead scientist for this experiment. “The Davis camera works well and gives us the high temporal resolution necessary to capture the quick processes in the lightning.”
The Thor-Davis experiment builds off the Thor experiment also conducted by Dr. Mogensen during his first mission to the ISS in 2015. During that experiment, Dr. Mogensen shot a 160-second video displaying 245 blue jets, which are another type of lightning event that shoots up towards space, with results from those findings being published in a 2016 study in Geophysical Research Letters.
The earliest recorded report of sprites—though they weren’t called that right away—occurred in November 1885 from the R.M.S. Moselle as it was leaving port in Jamacia with the sprites then being described as a “meteorological phenomenon” while “sometimes tinged with prismatic hues, while intermittently would shoot vertically upwards continuous darts of light displaying prismatic colours in which the contemporary tints, crimson and green, orange and blue, predominated.”
It took more than 100 years for the first photographic evidence of sprites to happen, when a team of scientists from the University of Minnesota accidentally imaged electrical discharges using a low-light-level television camera in 1989, with their findings later being published in Science the following year. It wasn’t until a 1995 study published in Geophysical Research Letters that these electrical charges were officially dubbed “sprites”. In the last several decades, sprites have been observed from all continents except for Antarctica, along with being observed from the ground, aircraft, and even outer space.
Image of red sprites taken in 2022 from the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile. (Credit: Zdenek Bardon/ESO)
What new discoveries about sprites will researchers make in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!
As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!
The post Red Sprites are Best Seen from Space appeared first on Universe Today.
Did you miss our previous article…
Europa Clipper Could Help Discover if Jupiter’s Moon is Habitable
Since 1979, when the Voyager probes flew past Jupiter and its system of moons, scientists have speculated about the possibility of life within Europa. Based on planetary modeling, Europa is believed to be differentiated between a rocky and metallic core, an icy crust and mantle, and a warm water ocean up to 100 km (62 mi) in depth. Scientists theorize that this ocean is maintained by tidal flexing, where interaction with Jupiter’s powerful gravitational field leads to geological activity in Europa’s core and hydrothermal vents at the core-mantle boundary.
Investigating the potential habitability of Europa is the main purpose of NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, which will launch on October 10th, 2024, and arrive around Jupiter in April 2030. However, this presents a challenge for astrobiologists since the habitability of Europa is dependent on many interrelated parameters that require collaborative investigation. In a recent paper, a team of NASA-led researchers reviewed the objectives of the Europa Clipper mission and anticipated what it could reveal regarding the moon’s interior, composition, and geology.
The team consisted of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), the Beyond Center at Arizona State University, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Honeybee Robotics, the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the Planetary Science Institute (PSI), the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL), NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and multiple universities. Their paper, “Investigating Europa’s Habitability with the Europa Clipper,” recently appeared in Space Science Reviews.
Could shallow lakes be locked away in Europa’s crust? Europa Clipper will find out. Credit: NASA
What is “Habitability”?
When it comes to the search for life beyond Earth (aka. astrobiology), all of humanity’s efforts are currently focused on Mars. This will change in the coming years as missions destined for the outer Solar System conduct detailed studies of “Ocean Worlds” – icy bodies with interior oceans. This includes Europa, Ganymede, Titan, Enceladus, Triton, and possibly Pluto and Charon. The Europa Clipper will be the first of these missions to arrive – followed by the ESA’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) in 2031. It will spend the next four years orbiting Jupiter and making close flybys of Europa, studying its surface and interior with its advanced suite of instruments. As the Europa Study Team summarized in their 2012 report:
“Jupiter’s moon Europa is one the most promising candidates for hosting life today among ocean worlds in the Solar System. In its investigation of Europa’s habitability, the Europa Clipper mission seeks to understand the provenance of water, essential chemical elements and compounds, and energy, and how they might combine to make this moon’s environments suitable to support life.”
As the NASA-led team indicated in their study, the purpose of the Europa Clipper mission is not to detect life itself but to assess Europa’s ability to support life as we know it. This will consist of confirming (or refuting) the existence of Europa’s interior ocean and determining if it possesses the necessary chemical and energy sources for life to thrive. However, one of the main challenges in investigating the moon’s habitability is the nature of the concept itself. Nevertheless, the relevant parameters include hospitable temperatures, pressure, pH, salinity, and the presence of a solvent (such as water).
Steven D. Vance, the Deputy Section Manager for the Planetary Interiors and Geophysics Group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), was also the paper’s lead author. As he explained to Universe Today via email:
“Habitability is the potential for supporting life, but not necessarily the presence of life. Some environments are more habitable than others. For example, a lush rainforest provides
Did you miss our previous article…
NASA’s Interstellar Mapping Probe Prepares for a 2025 Launch
Engineers at NASA have completed an important milestone in developing the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) spacecraft. It’s now moving from development and design to the assembly, testing, and integration phase, targeting a launch in late Spring 2025. After launch, the spacecraft will fly to the Earth-Sun L1 Lagrange Point and analyze how the Sun’s solar wind interacts with charged particles originating from outside the Solar System.
IMAP will follow up on discoveries and insights from the two Voyager spacecraft and the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) and will help investigate two of the most important overarching issues in heliophysics: the energization of charged particles from the Sun and the interaction of the solar wind at its boundary with interstellar space.
The mission will map the boundaries of the heliosphere — the electromagnetic bubble surrounding and protecting our solar system — and help researchers better understand the boundary of the heliosphere. This region is where the constant flow of particles from our Sun, called the solar wind, collides with material from the rest of the galaxy. This collision limits the amount of harmful cosmic radiation entering the heliosphere.
An updated model (left) suggests the shape of the Sun’s bubble of influence, the heliosphere, may be a deflated croissant shape, rather than the long-tailed comet shape suggested by other research (right). The white lines represent the solar magnetic field, while the red lines represent the interstellar magnetic field. Image Credits Opher, et al
It will also help settle the debate on the actual shape of the heliosphere. A study in 2020, using data from several spacecraft, suggested that the Sun’s bubble of influence may be a deflated croissant shape, rather than the long-tailed comet shape that has previously been
The spacecraft will be positioned about 1.5 million km (1 million miles) from Earth and will collect and analyze particles that make it through to help chart and understand the range of particles in interplanetary space.
The milestone the IMAP mission recently met is called Key Decision Point D, which allows the mission to move from development and design to the testing and integration phase. The targeted launch date was moved back one months, from late April to May 2025 to ensure that the project team has the adequate resources to “address risks and technical complexities during system integration and testing,” NASA said in a recent mission blog post.
The spacecraft is currently being assembled inside the clean room at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. There is a live, 24-hour feed where you can watch the assembly, integration, and testing.
During the next few months, engineers will install the electronics, communications systems, thermal systems, propulsion, batteries, and many more complex systems to make the spacecraft work. Additionally, all 10 of IMAP’s instruments will soon start to arrive from around the world and be integrated with the spacecraft one by one. Finally, the spacecraft will begin testing before being sent to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for final testing prior to launch.
Learn more about the mission and the huge team of universities and organizations that are part of IMAP at the mission website.
The post NASA’s Interstellar Mapping Probe Prepares for a 2025 Launch appeared first on Universe Today.
Did you miss our previous article…
Frontier Adventure5 days ago
A Gamma-ray Burst Disturbed the Earth’s Ionosphere
M Brand5 days ago
Importance Of The Blue Color Jobs In The Future US Economy
Grooming6 days ago
Introduction To Fragrance, Cologne, Eau De Toilette & Perfume
Hype Clothing6 days ago
Iridescent — New York Street Style
EDM5 days ago
Apple Music Replay Drops Before Spotify Wrapped
Frontier Adventure6 days ago
The Solar Radius Might Be Slightly Smaller Than We Thought
Tech6 days ago
The Download: the year’s most-read climate stories, and Amazon’s chatbot
Baller Awards5 days ago
Ben Stiller’s Visual Effects Feat at the Oscars